Professor R. J. (Dick) Ellis PhD FEA

Professor of American Studies

Department of English Literature


Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I am Professor of American Studies here at Birmingham and I am always happy to hear from fellow enthusiasts for the Beats, for Beat writing and for African American writing. My interests, however, also range more widely, and this is reflected in my list of recent publications.




Dick Ellis did his first degree and PhD at Exeter University, and has taught at Exeter University, Staffordshire University, University of Wisconsin, Leicester University and Nottingham Trent University. In the Summer of 2010 he was a Visiting Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and in the Spring of 2011 a visting Fellow at IFUSS in the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He has written over 80 articles and books, mainly in his centralresearch areas, The Beats and Beat Writing and African-American Writing and Culture (see below).  He is a Fellow of the English Association and is currently Chair of the British Association of American Studies Library and Resources Sub-Committee.

He is also the Research Coordinator for American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham and an Editorial Advisor and Commissioning Editor [American Texts] for Trent Editions.

Dick Ellis was the Curator of the  Jack Kerouac - Back On the Road exhibition at the University of Birmingham’s Barber Institute, featuring the famous 1951 original manuscript ‘scroll’ of Kerouac's 'On the Road' (displayed in Britain for the first time). The exhibition  ran between 3rd December 2008 and 28th January 2009.

Dick visited the W E B Dubois Institute at Harvard in the Summer of 2010, and is currently organizing a transatlantic exhibition on Harriet Beecher Stowe, which is taking as its particular focus the career-changing visit Stowe made to Birmingham in 1853.


  • The African American Experience
  • Research Skills and Methods in American Studies
  • Above, Beneath and Around the American Renaissance
  • Transatlantic Literary Relations
  • Beat Writing

Postgraduate supervision

Dick Ellis has supervised PhDs on Surveillance and Sexuality in American Fiction, The American Sublime, Ann Tyler, the Beats; and the work of George Lippard.

Doctoral research

PhD title Evergreeen Review and its relationship to the avant-garde in America, 1957-1974.


The beats and beat writing and culture

My research into the Beats, commencing with my PhD research, has given rise to many publications. It is rooted in a process of resisting the (until recently) dominant approach of relating the Beats’ work to their biographies, and instead focuses on relating their writing and their poetic and prosodic strategies to their historical and cultural contexts in close detail – an approach formulated in the early 1970s during my research into Evergreen Review and developed, for example, in my 1988 article on the laws of obscenity (focusing on William Burroughs and Grove Press), my 1996 article on Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Cuban crisis and my book on Jack Kerouac (Liar! Liar!, Greenwich Exchange, 1999).

African-American writing

My interdisciplinary research into African-American writing is similarly centred in an approach rooted in deep cultural contextual readings. My work on Harriet E. Wilson has included preparation of the first modern edition of her writing, four articles and four conference papers. In sum, these amount to a substantial expansion in the process of identifying this writer’s socio-historical and generic co-ordinates. My monograph on Harriet Wilson, published in 2003 by Rodopi Press undertook a cultural biography of her novel Our Nig, studying in detail the contexts of its production. I recently published a study of Hannah Crafts’ The Bondwoman;s Narrative and a new edition of Harriet Wilson's Our Nig, which i edited with Henry Louis Gates Jr. I am currently working on an article on Harriet Beecher Stowe and sadism and an ew edition of Charles Chesnutt's Ther Colonel's Dream.

Other activities

Exhibition Curating

  • Back On the Road: The 1951 Scroll Version of Kerouac’s Novel. The Barber Institute December 2008-January 2009.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Book and Some of Its Contexts (Birmingham: University of Birmingham ACS Mini-Gallery.
  • Little magazines/small presses/image & text (with David Miller), Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, 2000; London: South Bank Arts Centre, 2001.
  • U.S. and U.K. Little Magazines, Flaxman Gallery, Staffordshire Polytechnic Sept.-Oct., 1991.
  • The U.S. Underground: Alternative Cultural Publishing, The Library Gallery, Exeter University, Summer, 1973.


Books (since 1998)

  • R. J. Ellis (2011) Ed., with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. An edition of Harriet Wilson Our Nig; or, Sketches from the life of a Free Black. New york: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-307-47745-3.
  • R. J. Ellis (2010)  Ed., with Janet Floyd, Alison Easton and Lindsey Traub. Becoming Visible: Women’s Presence in Late Nineteenth-Century America.  Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Press. Pp. 177-200. ISBN 978-90-420-2977-4.
  • R. J. Ellis (2009) Jack Kerouac—Outside Writing. New Delhi and Sydney: Prestige Publishing. Pp. 135.  ISBN 81-7851-043-X.
  • R. J. Ellis (2009) Jack Kerouac: Back On the Road: The 1951 Scroll Manuscript and Related Items: An Exhibition Catalogue. Birmingham: University of Birmingham.
  • R. J. Ellis (2003) Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig: A Cultural Biography (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003).
  • R. J. Ellis (2000) Faulkner and Modernism (ed.), Renaissance and Modern Studies Series (University of Nottingham, 2000)
  • R. J. Ellis (1998) Liar! Liar! Jack Kerouac, Novelist (London: Greenwich Exchange, 1999) Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, (ed., with notes) (Trent Editions, 1998)

Articles (since 2000)

  • R. J. Ellis (2013) "Stowe, the South, Canada and Sadism."  In Waldemar Zacharasiewicz and Christopher Irmscher (eds), Cultural Circulation: Dialogues between Canada and the American South. Wein: Verflag der Osterreichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 99-117.
  • R. J. Ellis (2012) ‘“Grievances at the treatment she received”: Harriet E. Wilson’s Spiritualist Career in Boston’, American Literary History, 24.2: 234-264.
  • R. J. Ellis (2012)“‘Little ... Only with Some Qualification’: The Beats and Beat “Little Magazines”’, in  Booker, Peter  and Thacker, Andrew, eds., The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines Vol. II: North America 1894-1960, pp. 1001-1024. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-19-954851-0.
  • R. J. Ellis (2012) ‘“They took their time over the coming”: The postwar British/Beat, 1957-1965.’ In Nancy M. Grace and Jennie Skerl, eds, The Transnational Beat Generation, pp. 145-164. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 978-0-230-10840-0.
  • R. J. Ellis (2011) ‘I’ve seen him take his knife ...”: The Searchers (1956)” In Film Moments, ed. Tom Brown and James Walters. London: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 98-101
  • R. J. Ellis (2010) ‘“People Will Think You Have Struck an Attitude”: Fashionable Space in Emma Dunham Kelley’s Novels’. In Becoming Visible: Women’s Presence in Late Nineteenth-Century America  Eds. Janet Floyd et al. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Press. Pp. 177-200. ISBN 978-90-420-2977-4.
  • R. J. Ellis (2010) “Why Obama Can’t Close Guantanamo”, American Studies On-Line Vol. 17.  
  • R. J. Ellis (2009) ‘“so amiable and good”: Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative and its Lineages’. Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 62.1-2 (Winter): 137-162.  ISSN 0026637X.
  • R. J. Ellis (2010) “‘I know for certain ... that these are bad people’: The Intractable Problem of Guantanamo,” Comparative American Studies 8.3: 169-184.
  • R. J. Ellis (2009) ‘“Dedicated to America, Whatever that is”: Kerouac’s Versions of On the Road’. In What’s Your Road, Man: Critical Essays on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Hilary Holladay and Robert Holton, eds. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Pp. 118-138. ISBN 0-8093-2883-6.
  • R. J. Ellis (2009) ‘Kathy Acker’s Deconstruction of Jack Kerouac’s “Fellaheen” Dreams in Kathy Goes to Haiti’. In Kathy Acker and Transnationalism. Polina Mackay and Kathryn Nichols, eds. Pp. 67-90. Cambridge: Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-0570-4
  • R. J. Ellis (2008) ‘“Golden All Through”: Inter-Hemispheric Colorations to Spofford’s “The Amber Gods”. In American Studies as Media Studies. Eds Frank Kelleter and Daniel Stein. Pp. 95-106. ISBN 978-3-8253-5517-3.
  • R. J. Ellis (2008) Comparative American Studies 6.1. Ed., with Paul Giles. Special Issue on ‘Transnational American Studies’. March.  Pp,. 100. ISSN 1447-5700.
  • R. J. Ellis (2008) Uncle Tom’s Cabin through the Decades.
  • R. J. Ellis (2008) ‘What Happened to Harriet E. Wilson, née Adams? Was She Really Hattie Green?’ Transition 99: 162-168. ISSN 975-0-253-11683-3.
  • R. J. Ellis (2007) Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Book and Some of Its Contexts (Birmingham: University of Birmingham ACS). Pp. 16.
  • R. J. Ellis (2007) ‘“Whatever the law permits”: Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative’, Transatlantic Exchanges: The American South in Europe – Europe in the American South, Wien: Verlag de Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenscahften, 377-398. ISBN 978-3-7001-3954-6
  • R. J. Ellis (2007)  ‘“East Is West”: Interhemispheric American Studies and the Transnational Turn’, in Winfried Fluck et. al., eds., Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 23: ‘Transnational American Studies’, Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 163-188. ISBN 978-3-8233-4177-2
  • R. J. Ellis (2007) ‘Harriet E. Wilson (1828?-1900?), in Nicholas Coles and Janet Zandy, eds, American Working Class Literature: An Anthology, Oxford University Press, 91-95.
  • R. J. Ellis (2007)  ‘Harriet Beecher Stowe’, in ed. Peter Hinks and John McKivigan, Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition, Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 660-664. ISBN 978-313-33142-8
  • R. J. Ellis (2006)  ‘“No Authority At All”: Harriet Prescott Spofford’s “Down the River” and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn’, Mark Twain Journal 4: 33-54.
  • R. J. Ellis (2006) ‘“Scandalous for Being Scandalous”: “monstrous huge f**k[s]” and “slambanging big sodomies” in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road”, in Jago Morrison and Susan Watkins, eds, Scandalous Fictions: The Twentieth Century Novel in the Public Sphere, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006: 99-116. ISBN 1 4039 9584 2
  • R. J. Ellis (2006) R. J. Ellis 'Walker's Appeal', in Janet Gabler-Hover and Robert Sattelmeyer, eds, American History through Literature, 1820-1870, pp. 1234-1238. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006.
  • R. J. Ellis (2005)  with Paul Giles, 'E Pluribus Multitudinum: The New World of Journal Publishing in America', American Quarterly 57.4 (2005): 1033-1078
  • R. J. Ellis (2004) "“Dangerous, inauspicious and polluting”: the Limen, Liminal Transition, Space and The Scarlet Letter’s Thresholds’, in Mapping the Threshold: Essays in Liminality, ed. Nancy Bredendick (Madrid: The Gateway Press, 2004), 33-55.
  • R. J. Ellis (2004) ‘Crafts, Hannah’, in The Literary Encyclopedia, 2004
  • R. J. Ellis (2004) ‘African-American Fiction and Poetry’, in A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American South, eds. R. Gray and O. Robinson, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 255-279 (ISBN 0 631 22404 1), 280-296.
  • R. J. Ellis (2002)  ‘Our Nig: fetters of an American farmgirl’, in Special Relationships: Anglo-American Affinities and Antagonisms, 1854-1936, eds. Janet Beer and Bridget Bennett (Manchester: Manchester University Press): 65-88.
  • R. J. Ellis (2001) ‘Be a Crossroads: Globalising from Within’, 49th Parallel 8 (2001): 1-9
  • R. J. Ellis (2001) ‘“High standards for white conduct”: Race, Racism and Class in Dangling Man’, Saul Bellow Journal 16:2/17/1/17/2 (Summer/Fall 2000/Winter 2001): 26-50
  • R. J. Ellis (2000) ‘From “The Beetles” to “The Beatles”: The British/Beat 1955-1965’, Symbiosis 4.1 (April 2000): 67-98
  • R. J. Ellis (2000) ‘“Traps slyly laid”: Professing Autobiography in Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig’, in Representing Lives: Women and Autobiography, ed. Alison Donnell and Pauline Polkey (London: Macmillan, 2000), 65-76

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